Religious storytelling

Religion seems to deal with God, with morals, church service, guidelines for life, etc. But this is only the official part. The hidden part consists of things like the need for getting followers, for keeping followers, making money, defending the own belief against other religions, conquering new areas to spread the own religion, political work in general to increase and stabilize power and control, psychological tactics to convince people and followers that the own belief is the best one and the only one which is right and so on.

This hidden part of religious “work” is very human, in parts driven by ego and bad to evil intentions. And quite often all measures are allowed. The end justifies the means. In German language we say that the purpose sanctifies the means. This saying origins directly from the religious actions in history.

One main tool for the “political work” of religions is the use of storytelling. Every religious tradition is full of stories about the founder, about holy men, etc. These stories are filled with wonders, miracles of healing, events with angels, God, higher beings, the devil, demons and quite normal is that the founder of the religion is born from a virgin and left the earth by ascending directly to heaven. All these stories are certainly wonderful and people love such stories. They offer a good feeling to the followers. It is like reading wonderful fairy tales to children to make them feel good and to inspire them for good behavior, etc.

This storytelling is natural, it is good, it is nice but it is not really or completely based on real happenings. It follows hidden purposes.

The storytelling becomes bad or evil when followers misuse it against other people / religions or when they take everything completely for real without questioning it or giving it the appropriate value. Here we see once again how important it is to differentiate between the spiritual core of teachings and secondary stories which might be nice but have no real value on their own.

Important is also to differentiate the true nature of stories as only when you do so, you will understand their real meaning. So certainly there are stories describing a real historic event, often decorated with phantasy to glorify the happening or person. Then there are stories of pure phantasy, describing wonders and meetings with higher beings, etc. There can be a grains of truth in it. But in general these stories lack of direct eyewitnesses. Then we have stories which are just copied from other religions, cultures or from ancient history. Religions are full of such more or less really bad copies as they do not appear from nothing but are established in the frame of a continuous stream of religious traditions. Then we have the political stories which are meant to set certain pillars of belief, the dogmas. These stories are often a mixture of truth, half-truths, lies, phantasy and nonsense. They cannot stand scientific evaluation and also not the normal healthy intellect. The most useful and most important stories are those who have a symbolic meaning for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. So we find for example a lot of symbolism in the stories about Jesus. These are things which play a role in the spiritual education and initiation.

In conclusion, it makes a lot of sense to stay relaxed in regard of all the “holy stories” of a religious tradition, to differentiate their origins, meaning and purpose and to focus especially on those stories which serve the spiritual core of the religion. And when we compare the universal spiritual teachings with the stories of tradition which are hundreds or thousands of years old, being written in a completely different intellectual frame, then we can see big differences in quality to say it in a nice way.

We live in a time where so much knowledge is available that people should question their traditional relationship to the stories and teachings of their religious belief. People should pay respect but also should separate the wheat from the chaff.