The divisive role of many institutional religions, while ultimately acknowledging that there can be only one Creator or God is touched upon in the following extracts from the chapter ‘On religion’ from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’
“Were fragments of the faithful, the fearful, then hived off by the cleverer, the more power-hungry, priests through their creation of theological schisms? Did then come the schismatic wars, some overt by fighting and killing in the name of some god, or by forced conversion? Did the priests insidiously and persistently proselytise in order to claim a relative strength of their faith through numerical size? Even today, there are ordinary Christians continuing to collect souls for Christ in Africa and Asia. To what end?
Later, did not many gods, most local or regional, give way to one god, resulting in supremacy sought by priesthoods on a wider geographical front? Did some priesthoods subsequently develop into a hierarchy, a tower of authority composed entirely of men, enabling a lifestyle of considerable quality, while their flocks survived as best they could? What grandeur these priests must have portrayed, with a pageantry normally associated with god-kings! Indeed, some of them still do. Yet, there were other priesthoods which displayed a simpler lifestyle.
Is this not how religious institutions achieved control and began to mislead the people, even while purporting to guide, lead and comfort? Is this not why the more independent-minded people withdraw from participatory religious events and practices, to the extent that some go to the extreme stance of atheism?
Atheists do not believe in a creator god, but obviously cannot prove (much as they would like to) that such an entity does not exist. How could one prove the non-existence of something? On the other hand, the believers in a creator god cannot prove that such an entity exists (no matter how many of them cavort on the head of a thumb tack). What reliable, objective evidence can be adduced for such an existence? It is belief against belief. There can therefore be no solution to this conundrum, no matter how much and how long each side blathers on!”
(Not all religions are combative. Yet, in spite of much agreement by some well-meaning religious leaders, division remains – based on doctrinal differences. Authority and control may never be traded for unity in the search for communion with the Divine. Yet, there are other religions which are happily porous in their theology. Read my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’)