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Authoritarian Dynamics in Religion, How Corruption Begins to Take Hold and Spread

By Upendranath Das a2022 03 29

Segment 07

“The Main Qualification for Getting Ahead”

This dynamic, as just mentioned, is obviously disempowering. It undermines self-dignity and reduces the practitioner of authoritarian religion to anything from a neurotic to a babbling idiot. The exceptions are those who are able to avoid sins or who are adept at hiding them, from the eyes of others without being harassed by guilt. They invariably become the authorities. They rise to positions of power in the organizational structure because of the perception of them as being sinless.

“Sinless”, in this case does not mean being in a state of grace, but the perception of the strict followers, as those who are non-threatening to the authorities. Success means one must subvert one’s character to the group. The way to succeed in authoritarian religion, is to be a yes-man. One must lose one’s capacity for critical thinking, or risk being isolated from the herd, which deciphers into suppressing one’s reason, or willfully deluding oneself by denying one’s experience. In the Krishna consciousness movement, for instance, we may reframe something that is obviously mundane as something transcendental, so we do not go against the system; not make waves; not sin against authority; and worst of all, not face reality.

This capacity to stifle one’s critical thinking becomes the main qualification for moving up in the hierarchy of the religious group, for one is approved as “safe” by those in authority and gets promoted. One’s actual capacity to perform the task to which he is assigned becomes a secondary consideration, or not a consideration at all.

This is quite thought-provoking. We have to consider if these various symptoms do occur in our Krishna consciousness movement. Of course, first we have to answer the question,

“Is the day-to-day dynamic of life in Krishna consciousness meant to be an authoritarian or a humanitarian one?”

To answer this question, we must compare this with the description of humanitarian religion, to see which is in accord with sastra and Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and example.