Article by Upendranath Dasa
Authoritarian Dynamics in Religion, How Corruption Begins to Take Hold and Spread
The reader should be reminded that in this discussion, the philosophy or teaching of the religion is not the topic. The topic is the practical experience of life within the religious group. What goes on behind the veil of its philosophy and teachings? Is it, first of all, meant to be an authoritarian or a humanitarian experience? What is the actual experience? If the dynamic is meant to be humanitarian, is it in fact authoritarian?
Religion, is empowering, not disempowering. The dynamic of empowering man is far more present in the humanitarian expression of religion, than in the authoritarian, which as we have seen, reduces man to fear and trembling in the face of authority. This incapacitates him in his intellectual functions. Initially, this is true with respect to his religion, but this incapacitation eventually spills over into all spheres of a man’s life, and he becomes more and more dysfunctional. A real religious experience is meant to have the opposite effect. Man becomes more and more functional, sober, balanced, responsible, and able to stand up to the constant flux of life.
Humanistic religion is centered around man and his strength. Man must develop his power of reason in order to understand himself, his relationship to his fellow men and his position in the universe. He must recognize the truth, both with regard to his limitations and his potentialities. He must develop his powers of love for others as well as for beings. He must have principles and norms to guide him in his aims. Man’s aim in humanistic religion is to achieve the greatest strength, not the greatest powerlessness; virtue is self-realization, not obedience. Faith is certainty of conviction based on one’s experience of thought and feeling.
In this system, God is not a symbol of force and domination. Neither is authority. God represents upliftment, an invitation to join Him, a bringing about of union between God and man. Authority facilitates this union (yoga). God realization means becoming firm and free from doubt and the freedom to act in this world with certainty and sense of purpose—not in a sense of fear, trembling and groveling that typifies authoritarian dynamics.