More of the Same: Using Religion to Get Power and Money

In a recent BBC article, the hypocrisy of the Islamic State relative to their destruction of ancient archeological sites was discussed. As it is with many organized religions, the real motive is money – in this case, the money they get from the sale of the looted artifacts from these sites.

IS is doing what people have done for millennia – using religion to get power and money. Clearly, IS is no different from other religious organizations, where the primary objective is the perpetuation of the organization. Like so many conservative religions, they are promoting a very conventional belief system, but ultimately what they want is power. Although IS may make the worst infractions against reason and decency, other religious organizations engage in similarly hypocritical, if not so overtly destructive, activities. I do not provide examples here, as I am sure you can think of many on your own. Destructive and regressive practices such as IS uses show that they are deeply afraid of progress, just as other conservative religions are.

Organized religion has always had difficulty avoiding this pitfall, and likely always will. Those who lead in religion, and for that matter in business and government as well, want power and getting it becomes the focus of activity. Real spiritual seeking becomes secondary and sometimes even suspect. A return to contemplative roots can help prevent this sort of hypocritical power grabbing and keep religion spiritual.

Another pitfall organized religion frequently succumbs to is its claim to have the only way to God. It is this self-serving myopia that often leads to such bellicose actions as described above. Contemplative practice shows us that God can be reached any number of ways and by all people. It is not necessary to adhere to one belief system or follow specific practices to be “saved”, and no one belief system makes sense to all people. Most religions are based in a contemplative tradition which can provide an effective and culturally coherent method of spiritual practice for people who seek the Ultimate. Because there are many roads to the Divine aggressive proselytization is not necessary. If religions could accept that they do not have a monopoly on God, such terrible actions as those IS has taken would no longer be seen as necessary or desirable. Instead, people would see that we are already saved, and God is already here.


Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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