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What is “Religion” and to whom does “Religious Freedom” apply?

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the world’s population subscribe to one form of religion, or another, religion has proven itself very difficult to define. Over the years, many different legal, sociological and anthropological definitions have emerged.

Because of this, it is important to clarify that what I mean when I use the word “religion” and why it is that I use that word.

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Perhaps the biggest problem with the word “religion” is that it carries significant baggage for many people, especially those who have suffered at the hands of any one of the various religious movements, both mainstream and emergent that are all too frequently more about exerting control than any real spiritual truths.

When these people hear the word “religion”, they assume I mean “organised religion” and believe incorrectly that it is my intent to set myself up as some sort of gatekeeper for the legal access of Transcendent Compounds.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This campaign is about ensuring that all people can access these compounds for religious and spiritual purposes, not about placing myself in a position of power over those who would wish to do so.

Indeed, anyone familiar with mysticism should realise that mysticism is, in many ways, the antithesis of organised religion. Where organised religion is mostly about obeying authorities who claim to speak on behalf of the Divine, mysticism is about connecting directly with the Divine and understanding it without need for mediation by a potentially corruptive class of priests, imams, or other rent seekers.

This isn’t to say that mystics don’t attempt to force their views on others, nor is it to say that many of the various priests, imams and gurus aren’t genuine but there is a difference between a person who assists others in understanding the Divine on their own terms (which is certainly something I aspire to) and one who imposes a singular fragment of the Infinite upon everyone else (which is entirely alien to my intent).

Within the context of our campaign for regulated access to Transcendent Compounds for “religious purposes”, religion can be thought of as including all types of spiritual practice and belief. But as this campaign is also about forcing the Victorian Government to comply with their legal obligations under The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act (2006), a legal definition is also required.

Thankfully, The High Court of Australia, in its 1983 decision,“Church of the New Faith v Commissioner for Pay-Roll Tax (Vic)” has provided a workable definition of religion saying that it requires two essential elements: 

“First, belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing or Principle; and second, the acceptance of canons of conduct in order to give effect to that belief”.

The community of people using Transcendent Compounds for religious and spiritual purposes is simply too diverse to even attempt a summary of the various ways in which they conform to the “belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing, or Principle”, but within the framework of these varying beliefs, it can be held that the use of Transcendent Compounds is in itself a “cannon of conduct” that gives “effect to that belief”.

Within this context, it can be seen that the concept of “religion” encompasses much more than simply those beliefs that fall under the rubric of “organised religion”. Indeed, Section 14.1 (b) of the Victorian Charter grants:

“the freedom to demonstrate his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching, either individually or as part of a community, in public or in private.”

In other words, Victorian Law explicitly acknowledges that protected religious practice can occur at the individual level and that there is no particular threshold number of people, or any requirement that it occur within the confines of an established religious organisation.

Therefore, it can be seen that a very wide range of belief systems will be classified as “religious” under the Victorian and Australian legal frameworks. As such, the campaign “to obtain regulated access to Transcendent Compounds for spiritual and religious purposes” is applicable to people using these compounds individually, or within informal networks as it is for those doing so within more established traditions, such as Santo Daime, União do Vegetal, or the Native American Church.

While not currently recognised under any of Australia’s various drug laws, your right to use Transcendent Compounds as part of your spiritual practice is entailed by the very concept of religious freedom.

Certainly there is no need to believe anything that I (or anyone else) says about the Divine, or requirement to conform to my way of doing things.

Nor should there be.

The thoughts of a truly ignorant person.

Over the years, if I have learnt anything, it is that my ignorance is fundamental.

This may surprise many who speak with me, as people report that I often exude a confidence and certainty that they admire. They look at some of the things that I have done. such as a 28 day hunger strike and publicly Tripping with LSD on the Steps of Victoria’s Parliament House and think that I must be very certain of what I know.

Within one context, this is true. I am very certain of what I know. For example, when I write to members of the Victorian Parliament about my use of Transcendent Compounds, I use rigorous science and provide a sound assessment of the legal realities. I am a firm believer in science when it comes to figuring out the realities of this particular universe.

Anyone who knows me will know that I am frustrated by the ignorance that parades as knowledge. Whether it be conspiracy theorists trying to tell me that people I personally know (including friends in politics) are being controlled by the Illuminati, or Christian fundamentalists trying to tell me that their easily falsifiable “faith” in Christ means that I’ll be tortured in Hell for eternity.

It seems that wherever I turn people are in a desperate search for some sort of explanation an they’ll take the first shortcut that appeals to them and to the social networks they inhabit. They’d rather have an often horrific and depressing “certainty”, rather than go through life acknowledging that the fundamental state of all sentient is Ignorance.

What does it mean for something to be “True” and how can I ever know the “Truth”? Ultimately, we can never know anything for sure. While I believe certain things about the reality that I inhabit, I also know that I don’t have a clue about the fundamental reality of my experience. How much of what I experience is actually real? What does it even mean for something to be real?

I honestly don’t know if anything that I believe is actually “true” and when I see the grievous errors that other people make in their thinking and decision-making, I can’t help but wonder what errors I too am making. Lots according to others, but everything I write makes sense to me, and therein lies the rub.

How can anyone disprove the Matrix? We can’t. And if we can’t disprove the Matrix, how can we know anything for sure, beyond our own existence? Again, we can’t.

And I have long since given up worrying about it and have learnt to live with and enjoy the vast uncertainty that is every day of my life.

More evil in this world is created by those who think that they have “truth” than those who don’t. The fundamental motivation behind intolerance is that the bigot thinks that they know something and are better than those who they hate. It’s very hard to play nice with the other children, if you are convinced that they are inherently evil and are doing the work of Satan.

As hard as it is, I believe that the way forward for humanity lies not in us all believing the same thing and singing of the one song sheet, be it a Christian, Muslim, Communist, or Capitalist one. Instead, our collective way forward lies in acknowledging the fundamental uncertainty of all our opinions and being tolerant of the non-hurtful behaviors of others.

Civilization and communities are stronger than people think. Civilization has always been a move towards tolerance and the acceptance of others. If I can communicate anything in what I do, it is that we all need to simply accept that we haven’t got a clue and allow others to live their lives in whatever way they see fit, as long as they are not causing harm to others. Most of us have enough trouble keeping our own lives together, let alone worrying about living the lives of others.

The sooner people start leaving their self-imposed institutionalised, intellectual ghettos, the sooner that humanity will learn to truly cooperate and work together to solve our problems.

In this blog, I’ll be teasing out these and other issues. I have already written much on these topics, and these pages will be gradually added to the website over the next few days and weeks. But there is always more to be explored and much fun to be had in doing so.

If you want to listen to the thoughts of a truly ignorant person, tune in an enjoy the ride. 🙂