THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS
18 March 2019
No religion is safe in the hands of priests. The pattern of irrational dependence on priestly favours impairs your child’s will to endure.
Readers of Church Citizens' Voice have one more opportunity to read another clinical masterpiece (in the New Indian Express) by Revd. Valson Thampu. Here he has written dispassionately on the Religion of priest-craft where in most cases the priest is an expert in the ‘ease of doing business with God’. He has opined that dependence on priests inhibits children’s rational faculties and renders them intellectually passive and susceptible to manipulation by others. He writes that the religion of priest-craft cripples the will to act on what we know to be right – we will always compromise in the name of turning the other cheek or Shalom (peace). He has reiterated that the mistaken idea that religion and reason are incompatible — faith-is-above-facts — is an invention of priest-craft.
Considering that the writer himself is a priest, the article is very challenging. Let readers be the judge. Isaac Gomes, Asso. Editor, Church Citizens' Voice. .
We know how crucial parenting is. Yet we remain indifferent to the harm we do to our children by exposing them to what Immanuel Kant calls ‘the religion of priest-craft’ (Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, 1793). This counterfeit religion peddles superstition as faith and is seriously harmful to our authenticity as human beings. Superstitious religiosity lures people because it is premised on manipulating God, via priest-craft, towards fulfilling wishes and desires. The more unmerited they are, the more eagerly we resort to priestly superstition.
Consider this. Your child is about to set off for the annual exams. You are anxious that he may not do well. “Son,” you say, slipping a crisp currency note into his hands, “Put this into the box at the shrine.” From where did you get this idea? Certainly not from scriptures. It is your priest, and his hoary predecessors, who taught your clan that God can be bribed and his favours bought at a price. Sure, religion involves pleasing God. But the proper way to do this was to lead a godly life, living by values and ideals.
The priest came along and held out an effortless way to secure God’s favour. He was an expert in the ‘ease of doing business with God’. In comparison, the spiritual way was a long shot. It involved a continual struggle with oneself, and a widening ripple of responsibilities towards others. You could not love God, say, without loving your fellow human beings. And that was a damned difficult way to chase your desires, especially if they were selfish, as they usually are. Don’t you worry; the priest knows best to coerce God to favour you, irrespective of how ungodly you are.
Religion of priest-craft precipitates at least two serious issues for parenting. First, it inhibits your children’s rational faculties and renders them intellectually passive and susceptible to manipulation by others. The pattern of irrational dependence on priestly favours impairs your child’s will to struggle and to endure, as is necessary for character-formation and personality-development. The crippling of the will of children is an issue of extreme seriousness. No matter how good your child’s intensions are, they will remain unexpressed, if he is impaired in will. As a result, he will fail to act according to the values and ideals that he, otherwise, knows and approves.
The prime issue in ethical conduct—which all text books on values education overlook—is not that we do not know what is right, but that we lack the will to act on what we know to be right. A values-disposition is innate in your child. What you need to do as a parent is to nurture his strength of will so that he becomes an empowered agent of moral action. The religion of priest-craft cripples the will to act. While religion is a repository of values, priest-craft-ridden religiosity is a catalyst for corruption and an inhibitor of the will to act morally. That is because the priest, by making you mind only the link between religiosity and material rewards, prevents you from developing a disinterested commitment to moral principles, which is the essence of being authentically ethical.
If your child turns to God only for favours, then two things happen. First, he will never value God as God. He will value God as a sort of cosmic ATM, the priest being the gate-keeper. Second, he will fall away from God when his expectations begin to be frustrated, as they are sure to. Frustration of expectations—whims and fancies—is basic to personal development. Morality is a source of enduring strength because it empowers you to choose ethical options without counting profit or loss. For this, your child has to know that morality is an end in itself, which is utterly contrary to the essence of priest-craft.
The mistaken idea that religion and reason are incompatible—faith-is-above-facts, being a variant of it—is an invention of priest-craft. Spirituality is rational. Reason guides righteous conduct. That is why spirituality is a domain of light. The prayer, “lead us from darkness to light” is incompatible with priest-craft. The serious concern this poses to parenting is that the religion of priest-craft inhibits your child’s capacity to think rationally and act morally. The will to act morally is the power of character and the essence of stature.
The more you burden your child with priest-craft ridden religiosity, the more you will cripple his rational makeup. Exposure to priest-craft is one of the reasons he succumbs to ‘peer-pressure’.
Today parents face two formidable challenges in parenting: the distractions of the virtual world and the aberrations of religiosity. From the perspective of criminology, priests raping women or abusing children is the foremost issue. But from an educational point of view, the harmful effects of priest-craft on children is a greater cause for worry. For every woman or child abused by priests, there are thousands of children who are crippled by priest-craft infiltrating home, thanks to parental naivete. Parents should heed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words.
We should, exhort the German spiritual thinker and martyr, live ‘as if God is dead’. He was not advocating atheism, but flagging the harmfulness of ‘bad faith,’ which makes people palm off all responsibilities to God. Bonhoeffer advocated also ‘churchless Christianity’.
No religion is safe in the hands of priests and pontiffs. Christian clerics have turned — of which Jesus warned — churches into dens of thieves. May be, you can’t help that. But you can, surely, protect your children from the corrupting, crippling effects of priest-craft.
Revd. Valson Thampu is a former principal of St Stephen’s College, New Delhi