As you learned in the last chapter, religions are institutionalized attempts to answer big questions. For an introductory book on religion, this is a great start; however, understanding religion has to go beyond this definition because, unfortunately, religions, while they often start out as legitimate attempts to provide authentic answers to these big questions, often get distorted and bent out of shape along the way. We’ll see this quite clearly in this unit when we look at the concept of evil.
And just what is evil?
Evil is, of course, a concept quite common in religion and spirituality. You find the concept in every western religious tradition, and some older traditions, in one form or another. You even find it in most people’s minds. Most people, even so-called atheists, believe in some notion of evil. A question we might ask at this point is, Why is this concept so pervasive?
You can understand why the concept of evil is a pervasive concept when you consider what the concept of “evil” actually is, and what it is, is an answer to a big question we all ask. That question is, “why do bad things happen in the world?” or “why do people do bad things?” or “If God exists and is good, why does God allow bad things to happen?”
The world is a messed up place. People get sick. People fight wars. People are violent. Politicians lie. Corporations steel. There is suffering. There are tsunamis. There is famine. There is death, lots of death, much of it unnecessary. When we are old enough to see all the bad things that are happening around us, we naturally want to know why?
When we ask the big question “why do bad things happen,” evil is an answer we are often given. It works exactly like this:
“Why do bad things happen?”
“Bad things happen because there is evil in the world.”
You can see this notion that evil is an answer to the big question “why do bad things happen” clearly when comparing the differing beliefs about evil among different cultures of the world. Take the Polynesian cultures of the South Pacific, for example, the Dobu, Samoans, and Maori. Interestingly, the several Polynesian cultures which exist in the Polynesian Triangle1 all have different spiritual beliefs and different conceptions of evil, despite the fact that they all descend from the same Lapitian protoculture.
As one scholar says, “most Polynesian religions emphasize a harmony with nature, and thus their gods are neither evil nor good, but very powerful beings like the forces of nature.”2 Take the Samoan culture, for example. Samoan’s have a very grounded, humanistic concept of evil. In Samoan culture, the notion of evil is tied to human intent and anger. Evil is something that happens to you because of the bad thoughts and actions of somebody that is angry with you, and that is all. According to Margaret Mead, evil caused by the angry heart of another is a serious and going concern for Samoan citizens.
Anger in the heart of a relative, especially in that of a sister, is most potent in producing evil and so the whole household is convened, a kava ceremony held and each relative solemnly enjoined to confess what anger there is in his heart against the sick person.3
The concept of evil in Samoan culture is quite run-of-the-mill, arguably even non-existent. Other Polynesian cultures share this grounded and benign notion of evil. Maori beliefs on evil parallel the Samoan beliefs with bad events being caused by personified forces of nature, powerful spirits of dead ancestors (atua), their own wairu (disembodied spirits) that roam the Earth while the bodies are sleeping, or the vengeful spirits of still-born children.4
Not all Polynesian cultures are so humanistic in their notion of evil. Some Polynesian cultures develop notions of evil that are more malignant and aggressive. The Dobu are a case in point. For the Dobu, evil is the result of aggressive, personalized, and magical acts of violence, rage, and the oppression of others. The Dobu believe that they are always being attacked by others. The Dobu believe that magic is regularly used against them by others to gain an advantage, to achieve protection, to exact revenge, or to express jealousy at the good harvest of a neighbour. For the Dobu it is a dangerous world of violence and magic. This view of an aggressive and hostile universe extends even to the view of their own families, which they see as potentially hostile as well.
Danger indeed is at its height within the locality itself. Those who share the same shore, those who go through the same daily routine together, are the ones who do one another supernatural and actual harm. They play havoc with one’s harvest, they bring confusion upon one’s economic exchanges, they cause disease and death. Everyone possesses magic for these purposes and uses it upon all occasions, as we shall see. 5
For the Dobu, evil is what your family, friends, and neighbours do to you when they are acting out violently, with magic, to gain some sort of advantage over you.
Let us review.
Here we have three different cultures that emerge from the same proto-culture and that live in the same general location of the world; however, they each have different notions of evil and dark forces. The Samoans and the Maori, traditionally, have no real sense of evil they way you or I might understand it. For them, evil is something that happens when somebody is angry at you. The Dobu’s conception of evil is a bit more malignant, but still not quite up to the Cosmic Evil6 we find in western monotheisms. For the Dobu, evil is rooted in the action of violent family members, neighbours, and other competitors.
As you can see, each of these cultures has an answer to the question “why do bad things happen,” but each provides a different answer. A question at this point is, why did these Polynesian cultures develop such different conceptualizations of evil. What makes for the difference in beliefs?
This might seem like a difficult question to answer, but in fact, there is a simple answer, and that answer is environment, and in particular, scarcity. The Polynesian islands contain several different climate zones, some of which offer abundance, and some of which are resource-poor, with difficult terrain, limited water, and so on.
Those islands that are resource-poor provide difficult living conditions. Indeed, those islands that are resource-poor faced a double whammy because the islands close by were often poor as well. The proximity of small islands with poor conditions created conflicts and competition between the inhabitants as inhabitants of each island struggle to survive.7 For the Dobu, food is always scarce and hunger is a regular experience. For them, “existence appears as a cutthroat struggle in which deadly antagonists are pitted against one another in a contest for each one of the goods of life. Suspicion and cruelty are his trusted weapons in the strife and he gives no mercy, as he asks none.”8
The constant struggle and competition provides the social and environmental backdrop against which the Dobu’s conceptions of evil develop. For the Dobu, evil is magical spells and incantations, the psychic assaults, that your competitors cast at you to undermine your crops, steal your resources, or otherwise give themselves advantage.
On the other hand, those islands where life is easy and where the only bad thing an individual is likely to experience is the anger directed at them by another person in the family, develop beliefs about evil that reflect these experiences.
Thus, environment and life experiences have a significant impact on the religious beliefs of the islanders. Lundskow summarizes this:
We … see that those islands with abundant natural resources tended to favor egalitarian social forms, compared to resource-poor islands, where more internally and externally hostile and harshly hierarchical societies developed…… the people of resource-poor areas of Oceania face a daily struggle for survival, and consequently, their religious beliefs legitimate an internal social hostility and worldview premised on cruelty that the gods not only permit, but require.9
The Dobu and the Samoans are an interesting case because they demonstrate how environment impacts spiritual notions of evil. When environments are bad, notions of violence and evil emerge and get embedded into religious beliefs. When environments are abundant, there isn’t so much need for beliefs to explain this reality, and so if notions of evil do not develop, they are light-weight and humanistic.
When we examine Polynesian cultures, we can clearly see that the concept of evil is used to answer the question, “why do bad things happen.” We can also see that the answers that develop are clearly linked to the environments in which the concepts develop. Cultures that have benign natural environments develop benign notions of evil to explain benign instances of struggle and loss, while those who face harsher conditions develop harsher notions.
This is all very fascinating. What is even more fascinating is that despite the fact that some Polynesian cultures have very negative world views where evil acts come as a result of aggressive and malignant forces, none of the Polynesian cultures have a concept of evil anywhere near the monolithic cosmic-level concept you find in Western monotheistic traditions. They understand bad things happen, and they often attribute these bad things to supernatural events, but they do not have Western notions of cosmic evil; God versus Satan, black versus white, and similar notions of existential evil simply do not exist in these traditional cultures. In fact, in some cases, “Oceanian peoples consider demons to be stupid and easy fooled. The Dayaks of Borneo’s Keungan River used to place wooden idols in front of their doors during epidemics, believing that the demons would carry them off instead of human beings. When an epidemic strikes the Dieri of central Australia, a witch doctor is dispatched to beat the ground with a stuffed kangaroo tail, in order to flush out the demon responsible.”10 Even at its worst, these cultures have a very tame notion of evil compared to what you would find in a Western church.
Polynesian traditions are not the only traditions where notions of cosmic evil are absent. You find the same absence of cosmic evil in native North American spiritual traditions, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota people of the North American plains, collectively known as the Sioux, contain no conception of evil at all.11 The same can be said of Cree spirituality. In fact, as Harold Johnson describes, the Cree believe exactly the opposite of what most Westerners would believe. They believe in our innate goodness. For them, evil is something imposed from the outside—a dysfunction, or a pathology. Harold Johnson says:
It doesn’t matter where we start looking at the problem, so let’s start with Creation. We have a story about how the Creator gave us our original instructions, that he put that message inside of us. Things like morals, ethics, kindness, and empathy were given to us as gifts to carry. Another way of seeing it is that our morals and ethics were written in our DNA. We are coded to behave in a good way. It doesn’t matter which story we follow, whether it is our own stories about Creation, or the Christian story, or the science story— they all point to the idea that we carry our goodness within ourselves.”12
The Sioux and the Cree have no conception of evil. This does not mean, however, that they do not have beliefs to explain the problematic aspects of reality. They do. Native traditions like the Sioux and the Cree have a trickster figure, Spider or Inktomi as it is known in the Sioux traditions. However, this figure is not evil in any sense of the world. This evil is simply the “personification of threat,”13 specifically environmental and human threat. Contrary to New Age corruptions of this notion, which often portray the figure as some benign jester tasked with leading you on the path to enlightenment or redemption by playing head games with you, Inktomi represents the powerful, volatile, unpredictable, capricious, and uncontrollable forces of nature, as likely to help with the harvest and the hunt as it is to rain on the proverbial parade. The trickster also represents political conflict (between adjacent tribes, or even within one’s own community), struggle, and challenge. Nowhere in the Sioux mythology is this a figure of ultimate evil, or even social evil. This figure is just a part of life, and the real challenge, the real growth as a warrior and a people, is in learning to deal with that challenge.14
If you pause for a moment and consider the Native American trickster figure you will see that this figure represents a similar psychological, spiritual construct as the Polynesian characterizations of evil. The Trickster represents forces of nature that collide with human life and human civilization. The Trickster is an attempt to understand these forces, and also a rubric for humans to gain some sort of control.
To summarize, “tribal” spiritualties contain notions of evil directly linked to their environmental and social experience. Why do bad things happen? Because of starving neighbours, or angry hearts, or the capricious forces of nature.
However, as just about everybody reading these words will know, these notions of evil are not the only notions of evil we find. In other spiritualities, particularly the Western monotheistic varieties like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, evil comes in the form of powerful evil entities, like Satan, or grand existential darkness. These notions of cosmic level evil are are pervasive in Western religions, and they have, by now, completely penetrated popular culture the world over. They can be found in movies like Star Wars and the Avengers, where Darth Vader and Thanos occupy the role of cosmic destroyer. They are found on television shows like Lucifer or Good Omens. You can even find notions of cosmic evil peppered throughout popular music. Probably the best example of a song paying homage to cosmic evil is “Spanish Train,” by Chris d’Burgh.15
Go listen to Spanish Train by Chris d’Burgh
As you can see, unlike in traditional native spiritualties, in the European and Middle Eastern westworld, evil is something that is existential, cosmic, and massive. In western cultures, evil is not the violence of a marauding islander, the jealous hostility of a starving neighbor, the anger of a still-born spirit, or the actions of an annoying natural trickster, evil is a massive cosmic force engaged in a massive cosmic battle of utter domination where your place in eternity, even your soul, is at stake on the cosmic chessboard of life.
In the western world, evil is immanent, powerful, intelligent, and pervasive. This cosmic conception of evil held in the western world, of course, answers the same big question, which is, “why do bad things happen.” In the west, however, the answer is quite a bit different than anywhere else in the world. In the west, people who hold the view of cosmic/immanent evil believe the violence and tragedy of the world to be the result of the machinations of a super-power evil with suffering and damnation in mind. No other global traditions hold this same conception of evil, which makes it quite odd.
Given that we have seen that religious beliefs about evil are shaped by the need to explain violent family members or a capricious environment, the question before us now is, what sort of social or environmental conditions could have shaped these Western notions of cosmic evil.
To answer that question we have to travel back in time to the ancient Persian empire become aware of two things. The first thing we have to become aware of is the existence of a fellow by the name of Zoroaster. Zoroaster was a mystic, somebody who had mystical experiences (which, as you’ll see below, I simply call connection experiences). Zoroaster lived around 1000 B.C.16 According to the legends passed down, Zoroaster had some mystical experiences in which he received a series of “revelations” about the nature of God, the nature of creation, and the purpose of existence. These revelations went on to become the basis for the Zoroastrian religion.
Mary Boyce recounts the legends of his mystical experiences in all their baptismal morning glory:
“…after emerging from the pure element, water, in the freshness of a spring dawn – he had a vision. He saw on the bank a shining Being, who revealed himself as Vohu Manah ‘Good Purpose’; and this Being led Zoroaster into the presence of Ahura Mazda and five other radiant figures, before whom ‘he did not see his own shadow upon the earth, owing to their great light’. And it was then, from this great heptad, that he received his revelation.” 17
From this revelation, and the many more communications with Ahura Mazda that followed, Zoroastrian religion formed. The mystical beings gave Zoroaster information on cosmology, rituals, and worship. What was in this cosmology? What were in these rituals? What was the nature of the original wisdom?
The truth is, we do not really know for sure. The spiritual wisdom that Zoroaster received was initially spread word of mouth, and we do not have any record of that at all. What we do have, and this is the second thing you have to be aware of, is the output of Sasanian court priests who, in 300 A.D. or thereabouts, wrote down the word-of-mouth religion into seventeen great sacred hymns or Gathas which the priests of the day claim captured the basic Zorastrian beliefs.18
Just to be clear, at this point you need to be aware of the fact that Zoroaster had some mystical visions. Later, some priests wrote them down.
Did these Gathas, which were written by Sasanian court priests, faithfully capture Zoroastrian teachings? Unfortunately, we will never know what the mystic Zoroaster really had to say and whether or not the priests were accurate in their transcription because we only have what the Sassanian priests said he said, based on what they wrote down in the Gathas.
And what did the priests write down?
As you read in the article from “Zoroaster to Star Wars…” they wrote down the basic beliefs that almost all Westerners believe. They wrote into existence the notion of a divine hierarchy with the forces of good on the top and the forces of evil on the bottom. The elite Sassanian priests wrote into existence the notion of a dialectical conflict between these two forces. They wrote in the notion that you had to make a choice between divine good and an infernal evil.
Most important, for the first time ever, and in a “startling departure from accepted beliefs”19 of the time, the elite priests created the devil. In their Gathas, we find the notion of personified and powerful cosmic entities of evil fighting it out with powerful and personified forces of cosmic good. and great and personified cosmic forces of good fighting it out in a great cosmic battle over the souls of humanity.
The names are different, of course. In Zoroastrian, the great god of goodness is named Ahura Mazda and the vile Satan/Darth Vader is Angra Mainyu. But other than this, the ideas are exactly the same as the ones you find in all western patriarchal monotheisms. It is in Persian culture, in the courts of the elite high priests, where Satan was born. As Messadie notes “…much of the monotheistic theology that founded modern cultures was forged within the Iranian matrix: our Jewish, Christian, and Islamic angels and archangels, and consequently our Devil, were born there.” 20
Unfortunately, cosmic notions of good and evil did not stay confined to western monotheistic traditions. As I note in my article “From Zoroaster to Star Wars,” and as I’ve already suggested, the Zoroastrian/Sassanian belief system which pervades Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has also penetrated into movies, television, theater, video games, world literature, philosophy, and everywhere else Westernized humans have imprinted their thoughts and ideas.
Indeed, in this stage of advanced globalized capitalism, the entire mass cultural apparatus of this planet operates within a “Zoroastrian” frame, where a fight between a powerful good and a terrifying evil eternally ensue. For example, in Star Wars, the Zoroastrian God Ahura Mazda is played by Luke Skywalker, while the Zoroastrian Satan Angra Mainyu is played by Darth Vader. In the movie, the two fight it out in a cosmic battle the final apocalyptic ending of which is always vanquishment of the evil figure. Similarly, the popular HBO series Game of Thrones is a classic presentation of this ancient Zoroastrian ideology. In this show, the misguided rulers of Westeros prepare to fight the undead, and clearly evil, “White-Walkers.” John Snow, a resurrected leader of the good forces, makes the all-important Zoroastrian choice to fight for good in episode one of season three where he says, plain as day, “I wish to fight for the side that fights for life.”
In children’s books, you find Harry Potter, also a resurrected Saoshyant (a Saoshyant is a prophet, in Zoroastrian teachings), fighting the deceptive/evil Voldemort. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings the forces of light fight Mordor’s dark horde, led by Sauron, Tolkien’s version of Satan/Darth Vader/Angra Mainyu.
It is perhaps shocking to realize that the Zoroastrian story is the foundational bedrock upon which our Western (or is that Westeros) spiritual beliefs is set. Even more interesting and fascinating is to realize that while these beliefs are said to have originated in the mystical connections of the prophet Zoroaster, in fact, these beliefs emerged at hands of elite Sassanian priests. Remember, the priests are the ones that wrote the Gathas. The priests are the source of the beliefs.
At this point we arrive at a bit of an ontological quandary. Zoroaster may have had authentic mystical/connection experiences, and he may have provided revealed spiritual truths with those experiences, but do we know what he actually said? It is important to realize that Zoroaster’s mystical utterances were mediated by elite priests. It is tempting (or perhaps it is wishful) to think that the elite priests of the Sassanian courts wrote down the mystical revelations of Zoroaster honestly and transparently. Unfortunately, we have no reason to believe that this is the case, and every reason to believe otherwise.
First of all, Mary Boyce, eminent scholar of the Persian empire, notes that the Zoroastrian beliefs were a dramatic departure from the Vedism prominent in the area at the time.21 In other words, the Sassanian priests wrote down something different than what would be expected based on the beliefs at the time. This departure from the norm is enough to raise suspicions, but there is more.
Second, as Messadie notes, Zoroaster hated the cruel aristocrats of his time22 and consequently may, like Jesus Christ who came after him,23 have said things antagonistic to ruling elites. I think we can safely assume, at least until proven otherwise, that elite Sassanian priests would not have include anything in the Gathas hostile to the elite rulers they served. It is far more reasonable to assume the priests would edit Zoroaster’s teachings in some way.
Finally, as we will see quite clearly in the rest of this book, elite figures have been interfering with religious beliefs and spiritual truths for thousands of years. We will see it in regard to the erasure of Goddess spirituality, in the exploitation of religious beliefs by Feudal lords, antebellum industrialists, New Age profiteers, and Evangelical right wing political movements. As it turns out, elites are always getting involved and messing about in the religious beliefs of this planet.
If elite Sassanian priests did edit the original beliefs, in what way would they have done it, and why? As for why the elite priests may have messed with the received doctrine, the reasons are almost certainly political. Remember what I already said about Polynesian and Sioux beliefs. These beliefs were tied to their lived social, physical, and political experiences.
The same can be said here as well, for Zoroastrian beliefs, as recorded by the elite priests of the day. The question becomes, what were the economic and political conditions of the time, and how did they impact what the priest wrote down.
I think the Zoroastrian belief system, as penned by the Sasanian priests, reflected the political and economic conditions, as well as the administrative apparatus, of emerging civilizations in the Fertile Crescent. Since the Gathas were written by elite priests, this was a reflection of their world and their interests.
In what way did the Zoroastrian beliefs, as penned by the ancient elite priests, reflect the world and interests of the elites. One way the beliefs reflected the ancient elite realities was in the structures of authority and rule. The earthly elite courts of ruler and ruled, nobility and peasant, were exactly mirrored in the “courts” of Zoroastrian heaven, which also had a ruler (a supreme God) and a heavenly hierarchy of gods and goddesses.
And note, this convenient heavenly reflection of elite demagogic rule was probably no accident. The elite representation of a celestial hierarchy was (and still is) quite useful to worldly elites. If the common people complained about the slavery and suffering caused by elite systems of exploitation, the elites could simply point to “the heavens” as justification for the status quo. There’s a ruler in heaven and a ruler on Earth; so shut up, settle down, and accept.
Another way the Zoroastrian beliefs, as penned by the priests of the time, reflected the ancient elite realities and interests was in the purported existence of ultimate evil. Cosmic evil, personified as Angra Mainyu/Satan/Darth Vader/Voldomort, etc. gave elites an ideological system that allowed them to manipulate and control their citizens for economic and political reasons, including attack and defence.
Think about it.
The Sasanian notions of good and evil fighting it out for domination gave elites incredible power over the masses. The beliefs gave them the power to unify local citizenry under a single banner, weaponize them as forces fighting for “good” versus “evil,” and aim them in whatever aggressive or defensive direction they saw fit. All a ruling elite king or queen would have to do to mobilize citizens would be to invoke notions of ultimate evil and pin that evil on whatever target they wanted to destroy.
Perhaps it was for defence. Perhaps there was a competing ruler marching on the city gates and threatening to overthrow the king? An oppressed population angry at being exploited might not rise up to defend an oppressive ruler, but if the attackers could be painted as evil hordes in service to an evil God intent on destroying the good people and their rightful ruler, well, that was a different story.
Perhaps it was for attack. Perhaps the king wanted to attack a competing civilization, for trade routes, resources, or whatever. All the king would have to do would be to tell the citizens that the “other” was an evil representative of Angra Mainyu (i.e. Satan), invoke the “cosmic war,” and presto, instant military horde.
You can see how the Zoroastrian beliefs, as reflected through the pens of the elite Persian priests, would have been beneficial to the elites of the time, but not only to them. This strategy of using Zoroastrian beliefs in good and evil to militarize the masses has been going on for centuries. It happens every single time a nation goes to war. When a nation goes to war, leaders always invoke the ideological nodes provided by ancient Sasanian high priests to militarize the masses and justify their actions.
For example, the spiritual ideology provided by ancient Sasanian priests was used to great effect during the violent Christian crusades that occurred between 1095 A.E. and 1270 A.E.24 So effective where these Zoroastrian tropes that they created a “great hatred” that brutalized those target as the evil “other.”
The outcomes of this “great hatred” were brutal. The first victims were the Jews in central Europe. On their way to Jerusalem, the crusaders killed every last man, women, and Jewish child, thereby annihilating several European Jewish Communities. It was no less brutal when they entered the Byzantine empire and arrived at Jerusalem where they found, “to their dismay,” that the city consisted of three neighbourhood groups, one Jewish, one Christian and one Muslim, that all lived together in cooperative harmony. The harmony had brought great prosperity to the city, but the Crusaders destroyed that by indiscriminately slaughtering men, women, and children, and by burning, and looting. In an atrocity that echoes down through the ages, “the crusaders herded the Muslims into the Dome of the Rock25 and slaughtered every last Muslim inside. This atrocity inspired Muslims to rename it the Al-Aqsa Mosque, or Mosque of the Martyrs.”26
This dynamic, the exploitation of Zoroastrian binaries to invoke a “great hatred,” which is then used to manipulate populations and incite them to brutal war, is part of our normal modern experience as well. To this day, elites use these ancient Zoroastrian nodes to whip their populations up and aim them in attack or defence, whenever they happen to need a violent horde. President George W. Bush dubbed Iran the “axis of evil.” Iran leaders call the Western world “the great Satan.” Barack Obama was no Saint either, let it be known. He used the same ancient tropes, but just justified US violence in a more liberal way, by referring to evil in the hearts of men.27 And of course, Donald Trump and other political leaders are currently doing the same thing.
You can see what is going on here. In ancient Persian, as now in our “modern” times, the elite invoke notions of cosmic good and evil are aimed primarily at the defense of privilege and the colonial/imperial expansion of powerful nation-states.28 Populations are socialized with some modern version of this ancient Zoroastrian ideology (Catholicism, Islam, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and then elites use the veneer of spiritual truth to support and justify their actions. The Zoroastrian beliefs, in essence, solved the administrative and political problems of emerging civilizations.29 Ancient Sassanian priests provided beliefs that elite actors use, down to this day, to manipulate their own populations and get people, who otherwise do not know each other and have nothing against each other, to kill each other. Or at least, that is the theory. As we will all see a bit later, invocation of these ancient theological tropes does not always work out as planned.
After defining religion as an institutionalized attempt to answer life’s big question in the last chapter, in this unit we asked the simple question, does religion do a good job of answering the question. Although we do not have a definitive answer to this question just yet, we do know, after looking at one of the answers that religion provides, which is the answer of evil, that religion isn’t perfect. Not only do the answers that religion provide emerge from the social and natural environments we find ourselves in, but religions can easily exploited by special interest groups, like elite Sasanian priests, for venal economic and political purposes. Two examples we used in this chapter were the notion of divine hierarchies, and cosmic battles between good and evil. As we have seen, these beliefs, which may or may not have been a part of Zoroastrian’s original teachings, are very useful to elites because they justify elite rule and allow elites to organize and weaponize their populations. Moving forward, we will bee seeing more examples of this.
The malleable nature of religion’s relationship to spiritual truths raises some serious questions about the validity of religion’s answers to big questions and its utility as a human institution. If the answers religion provides are tinted by our lived experiences, or corrupted by people for their own selfish interests, does that mean that religion is, in fact, a naive delusion or political opiate, as its critics say it is? To be sure, the evidence presented in this chapter on evil, and upcoming chapters on Goddess spirituality and the Feudal Church, seems to suggest this. However before get to the damming evidence, before we sound the death knell on religion, we need to realize and consider one thing, and that is, human spirituality is about more than just religion and its answers to big questions. We will turn to a consideration of the “more” of human spirituality in the next chapter.
2George Lundskow, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (New York: Sage, 2008), 246.
3Margaret Mead, The Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization, Kindle (New York: William Morrow, 2016), https://amzn.to/2D4znnX.
4Elsdon Best, “Spiritual Concepts of the Maori: Part I,” Journal of the Polynesian Society 6, no. 1 (1900): 173–99.
5Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture, Kindle (New York: Mariner Books, 2005), 132.
6Cosmic evil is simply evil attributed to vast, cosmic level existential forces, like Satan, for example.
7George Lundskow, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (New York: Sage, 2008).
8Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture, Kindle (New York: Mariner Books, 2005), 172.
9George Lundskow, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (New York: Sage, 2008), 248–50.
10Gerald Messadie, A History of the Devil (New York: Kodansha, 1996), 27.
11Julian Rice, Before the Great Spirit: The Many Faces of Sioux Spirituality (University of New Mexico, 1998), https://amzn.to/2C9fM5E.
12Harold R. Johnson, Firewater: How Alcohol Is Killing My People (and Yours) (U of R Press, 2016), https://amzn.to/2D142T4.
13Julian Rice, Before the Great Spirit: The Many Faces of Sioux Spirituality (University of New Mexico, 1998), https://amzn.to/2C9fM5E.
14Interestingly, there is a common belief amongst Westerners that native spiritualties had figures of great evil and great good. In Sioux spirituality Western ethnographers found evidence of this in a Wakan Tanka, incorrectly understood and translated as Great Spirit. Turns out however, this was either a biased projection of Western spirituality, or an intentional effort to impose the colonial spirituality (Western Christianity) by attempting to rewrite native Spirituality. Rice provides a translation of Fire Thunder’s criticism of the rewrite: “This white man believed he understood the meaning of what he heard and wrote as he believed, but I can say that the traditions he reports never existed.” (Rice 1998)
16Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Routledge, 2001).
17Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Routledge, 2001), 19.
18Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Routledge, 2001).
19Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Routledge, 2001), 19.
20Gerald Messadie, A History of the Devil (New York: Kodansha, 1996), 74.
21Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (Routledge, 2001).
22Gerald Messadie, A History of the Devil (New York: Kodansha, 1996), 81.
23Mike Sosteric, “Rethinking the Origins and Purpose of Religion: Jesus, Constantine, and the Containment of Global Revolution,” Athens Journal of Social Sciences, Under Review, https://www.academia.edu/34970150/.
24George Lundskow, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (New York: Sage, 2008), 67.
25The Dome of the Rock is a mosque that stands where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into heaven, and where the Temple of Solomon used to stand before Titus Vespasianus destroyed in 70 CE.
26George Lundskow, The Sociology of Religion: A Substantive and Transdisciplinary Approach (New York: Sage, 2008), 88.
27Barack Obama, “Obama’s Speech on Drone Polic,” The New York Times, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/us/politics/transcript-of-obamas-speech-on-drone-policy.html.
28Edward S. Herman, The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda (South End Press, 1999).
29Gerald Messadie, A History of the Devil (New York: Kodansha, 1996).