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A MESSAGE FROM GANIENKEH
INDEPENDENT NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN STATE
TO BELIEVE OR TO KNOW
Religion is a delicate subject. One wrong word and one makes enemies. Many are comforted by spiritual ceremonies. Others have less or no need for comfort. Each has equal right to practice more or to practice less religion. In the past, the deeply religious have been known to force their religion on others. Many terrible deeds in history were done in the cause of religion.
Nothing is more insulting to man than to cast doubts on his beliefs. Yet, what does the word "belief" mean? It means acceptance as true and real that which has or does not have evidence to support it. For example, nobody can prove the existence of 'hell' but a lot of people believe in it. They accept it as true without knowing. In brief, one can believe in what one doesn't know. Belief is not knowledge. When one sees a fact before him or has evidence to support the existence of such a fact, then it is not necessary to believe. One knows. Many innocent men have been hanged because the judge and jury believed them guilty without really knowing. It was proven later they were innocent. It's one of the reasons the death penalty was revoked in many places. Belief can get you hanged. Knowledge can save you. Belief without knowledge can cause a lot of trouble.
Religion teaches that when a person dies the soul leaves the body. The soul then is bodiless. It shall not experience the same sensations as does the body. It shall not know hunger, thirst, sickness, pain nor death. It requires a body with a nervous system to transmit these sensations. The "creation of hell" then is a divine mistake for the souls cast into it cannot feel the heat since they cannot experience pain. Of course, it's only a belief that God created hell, not knowledge.
Regarding the religion of our ancestors, I can only refer to the Iroquois system. The people gather together for Thanksgiving Festivals on nine different occasions when they give thanks for various favors of nature, such as the new year (lunar), running of the maple sap (first food of the year), new growth of herbal medicines, planting time (seed festival), strawberry (first fruit of the year), beans (first garden product), green corn and the harvest festival. The people do not petition nor pray for more, but give thanks for what they received.
Praying is like telling God (Creator) what to do. They figure that God doesn't know how to conduct his godhood so they tell him. Not only that, they tell him the same words over and over again. God's dumb, see! Can't understand anything the first time. Gotta tell him a lot of times. It shows a lack of confidence in the Divinity. Isn't he bound to think: "What's the matter with these cats. Do they think I'm stupid or something? Give me the same words over and over." The best prayer is a way of life and acts, not sweet words which isn't going to fool anybody, much less the Lord. If the Creator made heaven and earth and all the wondrous works of nature, then he is so intelligent you'll never sweet talk your way to the everlasting kingdom of paradise. You will have to be good and kind toward the people who have been given to you. Defend and protect the people who have been given to you as your people. You and your people have been given an area of land by the Creator, then take good care of it. Let no other people usurp your land and your authority. If lost, then fight to get it back for you and your people. Or do you expect God to get it back for you and then to have some one else come and take it away from you because you can't learn how to hang on to what's given to you. Friends, Romans, and fellow Mohawks, the reality of history tells us we're on our own. We are born with brains, intelligent, energy, fighting spirit, hands and feet. All the equipment needed to do the noble work or the dirty work we expect God to do for us. Yes, sir! Action not words is the best prayer.
There is a gimmick used by many religions to fool the Lord. It's a way of going to paleface heaven without doing good deeds and being a good person. One may commit the foulest deeds and yet obtain forgiveness. This is the confession and repentance rituals. To be done frequently. In between repentance, one may be an utter fiend and do the most depraved acts and yet go to heaven provided he goes to confession and do the repentance ritual. This system makes it possible for great criminals to be members of great religions and when they get their come-uppance, are given $10,000 religious funerals with impressive eulogies. They are sure to go to heaven because they repented after every evil deed. The repentance ritual is an open invitation to become liars, crooks, thieves, murderers and criminals of every description feeling that they'll get the same reward in heaven as really good people who never did any bad deed. People who had no thought of doing wrong or committing "sins" are greatly encouraged to do so. This is a failing on the part of great religions. They cannot make bad people good. Instead, they encourage good people to relax their morals and even become evil people. Good people become hypocrites. The repentance ritual makes fun and mockery of all that is good and moral.
Everyone can make a mistake. "How can I do a stupid thing like that?!' He makes up his mind not to do it again and he doesn't. That's repentance. He makes no big production of it by standing before a congregation telling how, as the Creator is his witness and judge, he is repenting his sins. He does not do this "repentance" again and again to show what a big spiritual and religious person he is. It is not repentance if one does again and again what one has repented. Repentance means never to do it again. The ritual should be called by some other name such as "periodic boasting."
Religion makes no claims to have the formula for peace and happiness on earth, only for after you're dead. It makes no special effort to find ways and means to acquire the knowledge. One of the greatest scourges of mankind is poverty. There is a way to eliminate poverty, wars, fear (instead of inducing it which is the religious way), hate, envy, worry and other conditions which plague mankind and that's by creating conditions which erase them. Proper moral governments and a practical, worthy economic system can create the right environment for the achievement of advanced human relationship. Thus may peace and happiness on earth be proclaimed. Maybe it can be made into a religion.